I wonder if anyone’s ever bothered to write a book about the theories of what to do with the difficult second album. The way I see it, a band has many options. They could opt for more of the same but make everything bigger and bolder try and recreate their first album note for note, lyric for lyric. Alternatively, a band could do a complete Kid A, a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Then there’s the half-Kid A route; enough of a curveball to get people talking, and more importantly listening, but not so much of a departure that fan-alienation is a possibility. For their second album Flaws, Bombay Bicycle Club have taken the latter route – an acoustic album with new songs, old songs, and covers. Departure enough from their debut and a curious follow-up album to consolidate their standing in the music world, yet the similarities between debut and follow-up are astounding.
BBC’s debut album, I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose, was a triumph because of the dynamics of the songs and attention to detail the band employed; stirring post-rockesque guitars at times, delicate then evocative vocals, perfectly sequenced songs. Everything was a treat to listen to. BBC’s songwriting prowess is highlighted even further on Flaws.
An obvious link between Flaws and the debut are the inclusions of songs from the debut, “Dust on the Ground,” and “Jewel.” The chance to hear these songs stripped back to their bare bones are a welcome treat for the listener, allowing a new perspective and possibly a new-found appreciation for the band, one of those ‘Wow, I never knew these songs were that good’ moments. And of course, with such a radical departure for their second album the inclusion of older songs help the listener to settle in – yes it’s a very different sound, but it’s still the same band.
“Ivy & Gold” is a delightful little ditty with a galloping rhythm and wonderfully positive sounding guitars. “Leaving Blues” is the complete opposite with bare-sounding guitar and vocals. Word By Word is the most intriguing of the bunch, sounding as delicate as anything else on Flaws yet having an epic-in-waiting quality, the kind of song that could be played with full electric guitars and not sound too far off U2 or Arcade Fire. “Fairytale Lullaby,” a John Martyn cover, is at home in the middle of proceedings, underlining BBC’s folk credentials. Closer Swansea is also a cover, originally by Joanna Newsom, and throws a complete surprise as it finishes with the addition of synths to the song – odd for an acoustic album but welcome all the same, offering a tantalising glimpse at would could have been with their second album, but what could also be on their third(Presuming there will be one). Also, it’s epic, far more epic than anything on the debut, which makes two on the album. Another tantalising glimpse at the future, perhaps?
As with anything this different, there’s always going to be an amount of disappointment. As great as the acoustic songs are, I fell in love with the electric BBC and would’ve preferred an electric follow-up. There’s also a tiny thought in my mind that BBC could always have made this a download-only EP or perhaps released it when they’d established themselves abit more. Still, those are only my fanboy gripes. The music itself is interesting and beautiful, and good enough for repeat listens over and over again. In fact, it’s a grower, so the more you listen to it the more you’ll get out of it with each listen. It’s astounding that a band this young can be so self-assured to not only release an acoustic album this early into careers but one that is so good, highlighting every strength the band possesses.